THE KILLING BAY

A com­pelling mur­der mys­tery set on the windswept Faroe Is­lands. When ac­tivists ar­rive to protest the tra­di­tional whale hunts, English DI Jan Reyna finds him­self caught be­tween the two sides…

Crime Scene - - FIRST READ - By CHRIS OULD

Faroese de­tec­tive Hjalti Hentze is called to the scene of a mur­der, one which he sus­pects is con­nected to the vi­o­lence be­tween the is­lan­ders and ac­tivists.

Ári an­swered on the sixth ring. “Do we have an iden­tity for the body?” Ári asked. “Not at the mo­ment.” “All right, well you’d bet­ter go ahead and see what it looks like,” Ári told him, and Hentze heard a trace of an­noy­ance in his voice: he wouldn’t like miss­ing out. “Once you’ve as­sessed it we can go from there. I’ll start back as soon as I can, but it’s bound to take a while.” “Okay, no prob­lem,” Hentze said. By the time Hentze got to the sta­tion in Tór­shavn, Dán­jal Michelsen was al­ready there. Dán­jal had worked in CID long enough to know what they’d need and he was al­ready get­ting foren­sic cases out of stor­age. Then it was just a mat­ter of or­gan­is­ing half a dozen uni­formed of­fi­cers to go with them and driv­ing in con­voy to Gam­larætt to wait for the ferry, ten min­utes away.

Some­one had sug­gested us­ing the Search and Res­cue boat to get to San­doy, and if Ári Ni­clasen had been there Hentze knew that was prob­a­bly what they’d have done. But it seemed un­nec­es­sar­ily flam­boy­ant to Hentze, and prob­a­bly no faster once you took into ac­count that they’d ar­rive with­out trans­port at the other end. No, some things dic­tated their own pace and couldn’t be hur­ried. The dead wo­man wasn’t go­ing any­where.

An hour and a half af­ter he’d first got the call, Hentze was on the road be­side Húsavík’s newly re-clad com­mu­nity hall, in a breeze spit­ting rain. Some­one had had the fore­sight to open the hall, which was both good and bad. Good in the sense that it kept the con­cerned and cu­ri­ous vil­lagers in one place and away from the scene; bad be­cause it meant they had shel­ter and some­where to sit and so were not in­clined to go home.

Hentze had sta­tioned three uni­formed of­fi­cers at the ac­cess points to the flat promon­tory of grass beyond the foot­ball pitch just in case more sight­seers turned up, then he’d gone over the ba­sic facts again with Martin Hjelm. A wo­man called Maria Ham­mer had found the body and she had been taken home by her hus­band, suf­fer­ing from shock. Martin was un­sure pre­cisely how many peo­ple had been to look at the body be­fore he’d ar­rived, but he was pretty sure that no one had in­ter­fered with it. One man had used ex­pe­ri­ence gleaned from TV cop shows and kept peo­ple away – once he’d looked for him­self, of course. With that sorted out, Hentze sent an of­fi­cer to Maria Ham­mer’s house to take a state­ment and then de­cided he might as well take ad­van­tage of the fact that a good num­ber of vil­lagers were gath­ered in the hall.

“Let’s find out if any­one saw any­thing odd or sus­pi­cious around here in the last twenty-four to forty-eight hours,” Hentze told Dán­jal. “Es­pe­cially ve­hi­cles com­ing or go­ing.” He fas­tened up his foren­sic over­suit and leaned on the car while he placed plas­tic over­shoes on his boots.

“Shall I send them away when we’ve done that?” Dán­jal asked. With his short-cropped hair and tough-guy looks he was some­one who could get rid of even the most de­ter­mined busy­body.

“Ask them to go home, yeh,” Hentze said. “We’ll be here for a while so we’ll use the hall as a base. It will be good to have a place for breaks, es­pe­cially if it starts to rain harder.”

“Okay. I’ll see if there’s any tea or cof­fee in the kitchen.” Dán­jal turned to go in­side. “Dán­jal?” “Yeh?” Dán­jal looked back. “Find out if any­one took pic­tures on their phones. If they did, con­fis­cate them as ev­i­dence.” “Ev­i­dence?” “We don’t need any­one putting pho­tos up on the in­ter­net.” Es­pe­cially if she was one of the

Al­liance peo­ple, Hentze thought. With a cam­era round his neck and a foren­sic case in his hand, Hentze set off to­wards the stone huts near the fore­shore, de­lib­er­ately tak­ing the long­est and least di­rect path. Two hun­dred me­tres, he es­ti­mated, if you took the short­est route, which you would if you were go­ing there for any other pur­pose than his own. He as­sessed the ground as he walked. The rough grass was un­likely to hold any tracks but dogs might be use­ful. Later.

He walked with­out hurry, scan­ning the ground. Saw noth­ing, but stuck to the mantra he’d had dinned into him in train­ing: there is noth­ing to be gained from speed and many things that can be lost. Stop often, look all ways. What you see won’t harm the case, but what you miss will. Put ev­ery­thing else aside and just look.

He paused to ori­en­tate him­self again; changed di­rec­tion slightly to go around the huts from the far side, still see­ing noth­ing that didn’t be­long there. The sea was to his left now and he could see the place as it had been de­scribed, where three stone huts formed an al­cove. Just look. From this an­gle, this dis­tance, he couldn’t see very much. A shape: a bun­dle of clothes per­haps. He took a pho­to­graph, looked again to be sure he’d missed noth­ing, then he went closer.

He stopped again, three me­tres dis­tant, look­ing at the ground around him first. There? A cig­a­rette butt, fairly fresh. It was too soon to start pick­ing up ev­ery scrap he came across un­til he had a bet­ter idea of the whole. In­stead he opened the case, took out a marker flag and planted it in the ground near the butt. When he straight­ened up he let him­self look ahead. Now, be­cause he knew it was a body, that was what he saw. He couldn’t help that. But if you didn’t know – if you came across this scene when a body was the last thing you’d ex­pect – well then, you still might not recog­nise it. Clothes, weeds, grass. He took an­other pho­to­graph and moved for­ward, watch­ing where he stepped.

Fi­nally he was at the en­trance to the square niche formed by the stone walls. Fac­ing him, at head height on the wooden beam were the words “Fuck the Whales”. He put down the foren­sic case and pho­tographed the graf­fiti first, al­though it was im­pos­si­ble to know whether it was rel­e­vant or not. Then he shot a dozen pho­to­graphs of the body: a cou­ple wide-an­gled to es­tab­lish the scene, then close-ups, to make up a mo­saic, cap­tur­ing the sit­u­a­tion ex­actly as he found it.

When he’d done that he low­ered the cam­era, took a cou­ple of steps for­ward and sim­ply looked. He no­ticed how the weeds were flat­tened near her feet, which were clad in leather boots: ur­ban wear, not for hik­ing. Jeans, crum­pled up where the waist­band had been dragged down to her knees along with her panties. Lace, not util­i­tar­ian cot­ton.

Her ex­posed skin showed no ob­vi­ous signs of bruis­ing or scratches and he noted that her blue sweat­shirt was zipped up at the bot­tom, just a few cen­time­tres, then open to show a black tee shirt be­neath. There was a short tear in the black cot­ton and a dark stain around it about the size of a five kro­ner coin – blood al­most cer­tainly. Hentze as­sessed that for a few sec­onds, then ex­am­ined her neck – what he could see of it above the rum­pled hood of the sweat­shirt. There were no marks there, just part of a gold chain vis­i­ble against the skin.

Her head was tilted to one side with long black hair across her face, some of it tan­gled in the weeds, prob­a­bly by the wind. Hentze reached down and moved the hair back from her face, teas­ing it gen­tly away from the plants. Her eyes were closed – de­fined by a lit­tle make-up, not much – and her skin had the waxy semi-translu­cence of death. Still no sign of in­jury. She was in her early thir­ties, Hentze guessed. Af­ter a mo­ment he raised the cam­era again. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s my job.”

“Her ex posed skin showe d no ob­vi­ous signs of bruis­ing”

To find out what hap­pens next, pick up your copy of The Killing Bay, out now from Titan Books. Also avail­able as an ebook.

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